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Artist Builds Army to Promote Peace
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"I'm making terracotta women and children in Qin Dynasty warrior uniforms, to show they are the biggest sufferers of war."


These are the words of Marian Heyerdahl, a 49-year-old Norwegian artist who is building her own army in Xi'an, capital of northwestern Shaanxi Province.


Heyerdahl has made 70 terracotta women and children, dressed as Qin Dynasty soldiers, officers and generals, to symbolize the fate of war victims.


"The focus is on the suffering that women and children endure, something they are forced to experience, as history repeats itself," she said.


The original terracotta army was made in China's first feudal period, the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), but was not discovered until 1974. When Heyerdahl first saw it in 2003, she was shocked by the huge size of the line-up.


"I bought a full-size replica of a general and several small warriors. I put them in my studio in Norway, which gave me inspiration for my work," she said.


Heyerdahl's father is a renowned archaeologist whose works have been translated into 65 languages. When she was a teenager, he took her to Egypt and other famous ancient sites. Heyerdahl says this strongly influenced her interest in ancient civilizations.


Tired of reading stories of ordinary people suffering in war, Heyerdahl decided she wanted to send a message of peace.


"I thought of the Qin terracotta warriors and the people they left behind some 2,000 years ago. The women and children then suffered worse than the warriors," she said.


Heyerdahl came to Xi'an last October and found a factory producing replicas near the burial site. With local clay and tools, her first creation was a pregnant woman warrior.


Han Pingzhi, owner of the factory where Heyerdahl does her work, said he was surprised by her first creation, describing it as "a courageous act."


"My factory is officially approved, and we've had a number of foreigners come to learn how to make terracotta warriors. But Marian is the first to create a new type," Han said.


"Marian is a kind-hearted and hard-working artist. She doesn't stay at a hotel, and she cycles to the workshop everyday," said Sun Xiaoying, a local shop owner.


"I rent a house in a nearby village, and my neighbor is the man who discovered the Qin terracotta warriors and horses when he was working on his farm. Living and working here makes me feel at ease, and closer to the ancient warriors," Heyerdahl said.


Since she began working last October, Heyerdahl has continued to be troubled by thoughts of war. When she went to a photo exhibition of mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners, she said she saw some young people laughing.


"The cruelty of war has not changed with modern technology. Images presented daily in the media pollute society, causing apathy and inspiring violence at the same time. The new generation confuses virtual life with real life, creating premises for perversity and violence," she said.


Heyerdahl has completed the sculptures of her 70 woman and children warriors. The next step is to paint and finish them in her Beijing studio. She then plans to display them in Beijing on February 26 next year, before taking them to South Korea, Norway, Italy and the United States.


"The woman and children warriors are given different expressions: Smiling, screaming and pain. I created these sculptures with respect."


(China Daily October 16, 2006)

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